Another “no bolt” special at Red Rocks, Black Widow was named for the poisonous spiders who enjoy the shaded confines of this tough chimney climb. Guess I never thought of the name much until I saw the spiders as I was leading the crux pitch. Forget the 5.9 grade and consider this one of the tougher chimney pitches anywhere in Red Rocks. The 2nd pitch of Black Widow Hollow is advertised by Handren as more difficult than the Epinephrine 5.9 chimney pitches and I concur. What makes it even more menacing however is the condition of the rock. This is not a route for the faint of heart (read those pampered with granite). I experienced a solid piece of black varnish give way during one of the face transitions on the 2nd pitch and actually in the chimney itself, the pressure exerted by my hands against the opposing wall, made the top shiny layer of varnish crinkle and come apart like cardboard made out of sand. Perhaps what made my experience even more memorable was that I climbed the 210’ 2nd chimney pitch with mostly draws. I was in charge of the cams and ropes and my UK partner in charge of the passive pro and slings. Like most Euro sport climbers, he preferred draws. Draws and chimneys don’t mix, no matter where you climb, in case you ever want to try it.
Black Widow Hollow is actually quite dated compared to other routes on Mescalito’s East Face. Joe Herbst and Mark Moore put it in during 1976. The first pitch involves easy 5.7 climbing that lands you on a comfortable belay ledge directly below the 200’+ chimney. Handren puts the 2nd pitch at 210’ and it is more like 220’, but it is easy to add 20’ to the 3rd pitch and still make this a 3 pitch route with comfortable belays. There is a big ledge within the chimney itself 20’ or so down from the top of it. The rope drag is so severe towards the top of the chimney that it makes much more sense to climb Black Widow Hollow this way versus topping out on the chimney for a belay which would require simul-climbing with 60m ropes. As with any deeper chimney, it is hard to protect the 2nd pitch safely. At times you will need to squeeze in, place pro, use an extended sling and climb back out, knowing that any fall will more than likely result into a slam back into the chimney.
Black Widow Hollow definitely offers you good protection from the wind. Even the third pitch (crack face climbing) is angled such to give quite a bit of protection from westerly winds.
As you approach the Dark Shadow’s area from the Pine Creek Parking area, via the right side of the wash, turn left as you descend into the wash bottom in front of the east face of Mescalito as though you are heading for Cat in the Hat. Ascend out of the wash on a decent trail that continues towards the right side of the left fork and towards Cat in the Hat. Take off up the slope on any number of indistinct trails as you identify that you are directly below the Black Widow Hollow chimney which is the last feature on the east wall before you circumvent Mescalito to the south. The route starts in a small alcove below the chimney.
Route Description400’+/-, 3 Pitches, 5.9+
1st Pitch- 70’- 5.7/ Nothing special, just easy climbing to the large sandy ledge above with a tree to fix a belay directly below the tall chimney pitch.
2nd Pitch- 200’- 5.9+/ Not going to lie to you. This is full on battle on suspect rock….ok, bad rock. Start in the chimney fair enough. Back against the right wall. Place gear deep, climb back out towards the arête. A lot of the chimney is narrow, knee technique where both feet are plastered against the same wall your back is on. The shiny thin varnish layer on top crinkles and pops under the pressure of your hands. Eventually you have no choice but to turn out left onto face/arête moves via rock that is so-so and not that often climbed. Make sure to use double length runners when you can down low. Climb out of the chimney until it makes sense to move back in. Eventually it closes for a short section and you have to make a tough mantle onto a small sandy flat ledge. A pink tri-cam was jammed in a pocket on the right wall here (2008). The chimney becomes a crack for awhile where you pass a jammed #3 camelot (2008). Some precarious climbing eventually lands you back into the chimney and into a comfortable belay ledge. Building a station here is not so hot however. Would be nice to have two double length slings left over to sling a block. Otherwise a #.5 and #1 work here as I recall.
3rd Pitch- 120’- 5.9/ After WW III, you are rewarded with a nice crack through good varnish on a steep wall above the chimney (perpendicular to the right), first make a crux mantle move over the roof above to finish the chimney. You can protect the move with a larger piece set underneath. Then continue up the face on your right, with solid protection in a nice crack. As you enter a scoop above, stay right and follow the crack as it widens and the ground becomes less steep for an easy finish on big horns to a large ledge system that is above the 3rd belay of Cat in the Hat.
DescentFrom the top of Black Widow Hollow, scramble down west to the 3rd belay of Cat in the Hat, which is a slinged tree. Take two double rope rappels to the bottom of the canyon. If you have not climbed Cat in the Hat before, once you rap down the chimney portion below the tree, keep rapping over the large ledge to a smaller ledge located to the southwest. There is a bolted rappel on the short wall above this flat rounded ledge. One more double rope rappel gets you to the ground. Circumvent via a bushy trail back east along the south end of Mescalito to the base of Black Widow Hollow.
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